Would Queen Elizabeth ever abdicate the throne?
Britain's Queen Elizabeth is protected from a rain shower by an umbrella as she visits the Flowers Market (Marche aux Fleurs), in Paris, Saturday, June 7, 2014. (AP / Francois Lenoir, Pool)
Katherine DeClerq, Special to CTVNews.ca
Published Saturday, June 7, 2014 11:23AM EDT
Being king or queen used to be a lifestyle rather than a job -- you would serve the people until the end of your days.
But that fact seems to be up for debate. Over the last year a number of European monarchs have defied that tradition and have passed their throne to their younger heirs.
The most recent abdication occurred Monday, when Spain's King Juan Carlos, 79, made a national address saying he will be stepping down and handing his son, Prince Felipe, the crown.
Last year, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands announced her abdication after a 33-year reign. And shortly after, King Albert II of Belgium handed over the throne to his son, Phillippe. Albert, 79, had only been king for 20 years.
In the midst of these royal resignations, Pope Benedict XVI also stepped down, becoming the first pontiff to retire in 600 years.
This influx of retirements has caused many to question whether the Commonwealth monarchy will be pressured to do the same. Queen Elizabeth II is 88 years old and has just celebrated the 61st anniversary of her coronation, but she hasn't given any indication of tiring. On Wednesday, she yet again participated in the state opening of Parliament. Dressed in her ceremonious robes and wearing her crown, she delivered the 10-minute speech from the throne.
At 88, is it time for Elizabeth II to retire, and if so, which "younger generation" should take over?
Will Queen Elizabeth abdicate the throne?
According to CTV's royal commentator Richard Berthelsen, there is absolutely no reason for Queen Elizabeth to step down.
"When this news was announced by the Spanish King, the Queen was out horseback riding at Windsor Castle," said Berthelsen. "She doesn't appear to have health issues. She seems to be very vital."
There are a number of reasons why a queen or king would abdicate the throne. In the case of King Carlos, he had a number of health issues and was plagued by a few royal scandals, including an extravagant elephant hunting trip he took in the middle of Spain's financial crisis.
There is also a history of abdication in Spain, as well as in Holland. Queen Beatrix's mother and grandmother abdicated the throne before her. In those European monarchies, a royal will serve the people as long as he or she is able to -- usually until the age of 75-80 -- and then they will retire to give way to "a new generation," as King Carlos said in his speech Monday.
"A lot of them realize that they are no longer in a position to bring that fresh take to the job that is going to be required in the next decade or two," explained Cian Horrobin, national spokesperson of the Monarchist League of Canada.
In comparison, the British monarchy sees the position as a life-long service. Decades ago Queen Elizabeth swore an oath before God that she will serve as head of state until her death: "I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service."
This statement was reaffirmed during the 61st anniversary of her coronation on Monday, when she publically said "I dedicate myself anew to your service."
This sacred oath is what separates the British monarchy from others in Europe. Queen Beatrix and King Albert made declarations in front of their respective Parliaments saying they will respect the constitution, whereas Elizabeth II made a religious vow to serve as head of state.
The general consensus is that Queen Elizabeth will reign until she is incapable of doing so. In light of a serious illness, a regency will be established and Charles will take over most official duties.
Is it possible for William to become the next King, especially considering other monarchies are passing the throne down to much younger heirs?
The answer, again, is no.
Regardless of the fact that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are beloved across the 16 nations that fall under the British reign, legally the order of succession begins with Prince Charles.
"It's not like the Queen is bequeathing a piece of furniture. It doesn't work that way," Berthelsen said. "The law is completely based on Charles, the Prince of Wales being the heir. And any change would require the approval of Parliament, not just in Britain, but in all 16 countries simultaneously."
Estelle Bouthillier, an archivist at Concordia University specializing in European monarchies, says that while people believe that William would do a better job, because he is seen as more relatable, Prince Charles shouldn't be counted out just yet. He may surprise us.
"I think that when the time comes, when Charles gets to the throne, a lot of people will say 'why is it not William? He is younger and he can reach the younger people'," said Bouthillier. "But I think Charles, even if he is 65, has a pretty modern ideology on a lot of subjects."
The world's obsession with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge has intensified after the royal wedding and the birth of Prince George, and with it comes the assumption that William would make a great king.
But Bouthillier points out that this type of obsession and desire for the younger generation to take over the monarchy is not new. Before there was Will and Kate, there was, in effect, Prince Charles.
"I remember when Prince Charles was in his 20s. Everywhere he went people were looking for him and trying to touch him. Now they are doing that to his son."
She added: "The next generation will be with Prince George."
The important thing is not to confuse a fad with the capability to rule. Prince Charles has been groomed to be king for decades now, and has the skills to do it well.
"The strongest part of the monarchy is that you have the lifetime of your predecessor to prepare for the job," said Horrobin.
Over the last few years, the Queen has delegated Charles a number of duties in order to lighten her schedule. He has travelled on behalf of the Queen, awarded knighthoods, and attended receptions in preparation of his own coronation.
Not to mention that William would not have any interest in leap frogging over his father to become king. He just began a family and is likely not looking to take on the official responsibility of head of state anytime soon.
In theory, what would happen if Queen Elizabeth abdicated the throne?
Because Queen Elizabeth is the head of state of 16 commonwealth countries, including Canada, it will be difficult to legally abdicate the throne.
"The assumption of our constitution, and the constitution of the United Kingdom, which is an unwritten constitution, the assumption is that they continue to their death," said Berthelsen.
In 1936, King Edward VIII abdicated the throne, and it caused a big constitutional crisis for the British Empire. It required Canada, as well as all of Australia and New Zealand, to adopt new legislation in order to make it official.
"Since 1936, we now have a constitution in Canada. There are a lot of complicated factors," added Berthelsen. "I think the Queen is also sensitive to that. It's not something that can be done overnight."
Berthelsen says that these abdications are normal, and the only reason why people are questioning Queen Elizabeth's status is because all of the monarchies abdicated within the last year. If the Queens and Kings of Europe had waited a few years between retirements, then it wouldn't be such a public issue.